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BAUMHOLDER, Germany — An Iron Brigade soldier died Wednesday from wounds suffered in July when a roadside bomb detonated near his Humvee in Iraq, the Department of Defense announced late Thursday.

Sgt. James A. McHale, 31, was assigned to the Baumholder-based 40th Engineer Battalion, which is responsible for identifying and clearing roads of explosives. The 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division soldier was on his second tour in Iraq.

A memorial service at the U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder is being planned for next week, according to rear detachment commanders.

McHale, who had been in a coma since being injured July 22, was taken off life support Wednesday while he was surrounded by friends and family. His parents were among those who made the trip from Montana to say goodbye.

"He was just an awesome guy," Trudy Hamann, McHale’s aunt, told the Great Falls, Montana Tribune. "He had the biggest heart, the biggest smile. He was willing to do everything for everyone."

McHale’s brother, Michael, who is currently serving in Iraq as an Army tank mechanic, told the paper that he admired his brother’s courage.

"He thought he was Superman," said Michael McHale. "He didn’t think he was going to get hurt. He was over there for everybody else."

The Iron Brigade has been deployed to Iraq since April. McHale is the third soldier from the unit to be killed during the deployment.

On June 23rd, Capt. Gregory Dalessio and Pfc. Bryan Thomas were killed by small arms fire in the city of Salman Pak, where they served with the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment.

McHale, who served in the Army for 11 years, joined after graduating high school in Fairfield, Mont.

Word about his condition quickly spread through McHale’s small hometown, where friends and neighbors formed prayer chains in the hopes of helping the soldier pull through.

"It’s just devastating," family friend Cindy Luoma told the Tribune. "It brings the war so close to home. It’s always somebody else’s war until it hits you personally. These are our boys over there."

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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